School’s 21st Century Learning Center morphs into Project CONNECT

PLATTSBURGH — A few years ago the federal government awarded Plattsburgh City School a grant intended to make a difference in the lives of students and their families. The result of that grant, the 21st Century Community Learning Center, provides academic enrichment opportunities for children during non-school hours. It was designed to help students meet state and local standards in core academic subjects. The federal money runs out this June, but the program will continue through a new partnership with Plattsburgh State.

The university’s Division of Education, Health and Human Services will implement Project CONNECT, which will continue to enrich the school’s educational program.

“One of the basic tenets of the grant was for schools to take this money, design a program and learn how to implement it so we could then carry on when the grant money dried up,” said Plattsburgh City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short in a press release.

Funds from the 21st Century Community Learning Center helped provide students with activities that complimented regular academic programs, as well as literacy and other educational services for the children’s families. Students at Bailey Avenue, Momot and Oak Street elementary schools primarily benefited from the programs.

Other community agencies that have been involved with the project over the years include the Clinton County Health Department, the American Red Cross, the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, Behavioral Health Services North, Champlain Valley Family Center, Literacy Volunteers and the Plattsburgh Public Library.

Project CONNECT will be overseen by faculty, students and graduates at Plattsburgh State’s Teacher Education programs.

“We wanted something that would focus on strengthening our partnership with schools,” said Dr. Michael Morgan, dean of Education, Health and Human services at Plattsburgh State.

Project CONNECT will assist students with homework and provide tutoring, as well as reading and literacy programming, recreation, nutrition education and field trips. It starts after school this fall and runs to 5:30 p.m. on school days. While the Learning Center was free, there will be a cost for students participating in the new program that starts at $40 for one child and does not exceed $300 per month. Tuition for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches will be on a sliding scale.

The program provides student teachers with increased opportunities to practice early. The teacher education unit will have students embedded in the schools doing field work, along with professors. Project CONNECT will also provide opportunities for students in speech, hearing and special education, as well as those in specialized areas such as math, science and foreign languages.

All of this benefits students in the program, said city school officials.

“As we looked at it and thought about it, we saw how it extends the educational component of a school,” Short said.

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